Mane Focus

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  • “Good hair is the kind of hair that stays on your head.” That’s often what I say in response to any kind of hair discussion, unless, of course, you are bald by choice and proud of it. Michael Jordan and Tom Joyner are excellent examples of that.

    Unfortunately “good” hair versus “bad” hair, the debate – often heated and always charged – continues, with “Good” hair normally describing hair that is close to the texture of a white person’s hair and “bad” hair referring to the extremely curly hair that is also referred to as kinky or nappy.

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    I was reminded of the insecurities and inconsistencies of the issues that black women have with our hair during a conversation I overheard in a local Starbucks. Apparently, latte and locks; pastries and press n’ curls were on the menu that day.

    In summary, one woman was sharing with her friend that she was nervous about an upcoming beach getaway with a new boyfriend because although she wanted to enjoy swimming and other water activities, she was not quite ready for her man to see what her hair looked like “after it turned.” The girlfriend laughed, nodded and started listing names like Kunta Shante, and Nap-ina Brown.

    Our eyes caught, and I got the sense that they wanted to include me in the joke, but I looked away. I was embarrassed – and quite frankly, saddened – not by the choice that they had made to chemically treat their hair, but for the shame they carried for their natural hair.

    Now, let me be clear from the jump: What you do with the “good” hair on your head is entirely up to you. This is a judgment-free zone. The fact that we shouldn’t be judged by any hair choice we make is the point of this blog.

    But I think there needs to be some discussion. And I think there needs to be some healing.

    My grandma always said, “If you want to know a black woman, you touch her hair.” She said that is where we carry everything — all our hopes, our dreams, our pain.

    How freeing it is to release all that ties us into something as shallow as hair?

    We have let it own us, obsess us, name us and claim us. And finally, India Arie made a declaration of liberation that we can shout, believe and bob our nappy, natural, permed, press and curled, locked or shaved heads to.

    In some respects, we have come a long way when it comes to our hair. Most of us realize how ignorant it sounds to categorize it as good or bad. Many of us have discovered that decades of applying chemicals to it can’t be a good thing. And for the most part, I think little black girls today have a healthier perception about hair and have lots more natural and healthy acceptable choices than we did when we were kids.

    Marcus Garvey said, “Remove the kinks from your mind, not your head.”

    That being said, a lot of hang-ups about hair remain in our heads, put there by a number of things. Every black woman has had a defining hair experience. We’ve lost our hair, had horrible haircuts or were somehow, real or imagined, unfairly judged by our hair.

    Before we began to understand and take pride in our natural beauty, girls were teased and taunted if their hair was short, broken off or nappy, so much so that it literally destroyed their self worth. We have been compared to a European standard of beauty for so long that we sometimes let our hair take on a life of its own. And sometimes we let it control our lives.

    Even my niece once asked why she couldn’t have inherited my type of hair instead of her mother’s. It gave me pause because I remember many a time wishing I had my sister’s hair – thick and determined to hold a curl, while my lightweight hair would give even the best curling iron a run for its money.

    Obviously, we haven’t come full circle, but we’re better than we once were. I don’t have daughters, so the only hair issue with my boys is when I can’t find their brush. It leaves a lot of time to concentrate on my own hair and doing what I can to make sure it represents me the way the way I want it to. Because there have been times when a lot was going on that was out of my control, and a good hair day gave me the boost I needed.

    But now it’s time to raise the bar on the standard of beauty.

    I’ve never been one to spend much time on my hair and have often characterized myself as a “wash and go” kind of girl. And I’ve both chemically treated my hair and gone without chemicals. Interesting that I never thought of it as wearing my hair in its natural state. I would just say I was growing my hair out or giving my hair a break, so although I was without chemicals, I wasn’t embracing my hair being in its natural state.

    Well, now I’ve decided to go natural, and this time around, it is much more than just something for me to do. It’s a journey, a journey that’s more about rediscovering my hair, but also about rediscovering me.

    But more about that in blogs to come.

    Going natural and STAYING natural will require tremendous commitment. But so does maintaining a healthy head of chemically treated hair. Do what works for you! But if you’re thinking of going natural OR you are looking for tips for a healthier head of chemically treated hair, you need support.

    Let’s create a space here where we can share tips, exchange stories and give support.

    Stay tuned to meet my “mane characters” – my group of girls, who proud whip their healthy and natural hair and take our “mane course,” where the hair care experts give their bestest tips.

    Stay and share.

    Nikki Woods is senior producer of “The Tom Joyner Morning Show.” The author of “Easier Said Than Done,” the Dallas-based Woods is currently working on her second and third novels. You can friend her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter: @nikkiwoods.

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